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London’s Olympic nightmare

Surprise, surprise:

London’s 2012 Olympic dream suffered a huge setback last night amid fears that the entire project will fall prey to soaring costs and interfering politicians.

You mean there are people who only worked that out last night. Olympic costs soar. Politicians interfere. These are fundamental natural forces. Everybody knows that. It is merely that lots of people do not care, because they will not – or think that they will not – be paying.

Jack Lemley, the American engineer drafted in to oversee the gigantic building project, quit suddenly two weeks ago saying that he wanted to spend more time on his construction business.

Makes a refreshing change from spending more time with his family. No doubt his construction company still loves him very much.

But last night, Mr Lemley, 71, the boss of an international engineering and consulting company, revealed that politics had driven him out and warned of soaring costs for the Olympic project.

In a body blow to hopes of a successful games, Mr Lemley told Idaho Statesman newspaper: “I went there to build things, not to sit and talk about it, so I felt it best to leave the post and come home.”

Very wise.

He said the London construction projects seemed likely to come in late and cost more than expected due to politics, and he feared that would ruin his reputation of delivering projects on time and on budget.

Which makes you wonder how much it will cost to replace the guy. And what kind of a jerk he will be.

The remarks have enraged Olympic organisers who privately say that Mr Lemley had left partly because of ill health and had agreed not to comment more about the project.

Privately as in don’t-say-I-said-it-but-do-say-it. Mr Lemley owes these people nothing, and certainly not his silence.

If only …

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15 comments to London’s Olympic nightmare

  • Paul

    As someone paying the extra London Olympic Tax I knew this would happen. Why couldn’t the Government just spend the money directly into regeneration rather than wrap it in a sports days. Gits!

  • Freeman

    Totally predictable, of course, and the situation will no doubt get worse as 2012 approaches and workers slow down to earn overtime rates.

    However, one building that could get built on time at the over £100million expense of Saudi Arabia is a 70,000 person capacity Mosque and Islamic village next to, and overshadowing, the Olympic site.

    I shall happily not be frequenting either facility.

  • Sandy P

    Mitt Romney might be available in about 3 years…..

  • Heh, the thread on the Samizdata article posted would have to be one of the classics of this blog.

  • AC

    Between this post and several at reason, Idaho is getting the most exposure its had since Ruby Ridge.

  • Pete

    Are the Olympics worth all this fuss? Nobody I know ever seems to look forward to them, or talk about them much while they are on or at all after they have finished. If the next Olympics were cancelled I doubt if the vast majority of the UK population would notice or care. I think Londoners should make the 2012 Olympics the main issue of one of their local elections with a view to scrapping them.

  • James: That’s the one where HJHJ posted something like 50 comments? (Michael follows link. Yep. That’s the one). I do like his “Yes, well the Sydney games may have cost a lot of money and the pre-bid booster rhetoric may sound exactly the same, but the financial numbers proposed are solid this time” argument.

    I am sort of nausiatingly amused by the way in which the pattern follows what happened in Sydney so exactly, and we slowly realise that much of what was said before the bid was either outright lies, or was simply made up without any idea how it would later fit in with reality. My favourite is the whole “First Green Games” thing, in which it is announced that the London games will be environmentally sound and will involve the planting of thousands of new trees, and an ecologically sound athletes village and all that kid of crap, and then as the sheer scale of what has been taken on this is all forgotten as just getting the bloody games to happen one way or another becomes paramount. We got the same thing word for word in Sydney.

    Of course, we still have no idea what the Sydney games actually cost. The level of secrecy about that one scares me a lot.

    For give me for the cynicism and bitterness. I pay council tax in London.

  • Michael : 50 posts plus the sock puppets.

    You’re dead right, however. I distinctly remember the hoopla regarding the environmentally friendly nature of the athletes’ village at the Sydney Games. It’s as though there is an enduring IOC-imposed comprehensive template that all host cities must comply with. It was probably the progeny of some fascist(Link).

  • michael farris

    Is Miss World still broadcast in the UK?

    I saw a kind of documentary a few years ago that followed that pageant from its glory days through a few scandals (in the Italian sense of the word) and increasing lack of interest in the home market at which point it became customary to hold it in out of the way countries where it still was a (comparitively) big deal.

    The olympics are reminding me more and more of Miss World, it seems each new olympic games are greeted with less and less interest.

    I watched a lot of the opening ceremonies of the Athens games and that was about it (on purpose, I accidentally saw a few other competitions, the opening ceremonies were an accident too though they were well done enough to keep me watching.

    I enjoy the winter olympics a lot more than the summer games and so watched a lot more of the Turin games, especially for the oddball, eccentric sports (like curling which I watch in happy uncomprehension for hours). But I wasn’t watching because it was the olympics (I saw but because they were sports I enjoy watching regardless of occasion.

    The olympics used to be interesting for the faint frisson of ersatz coldwar combat and the emerging collective media consciousness it engendered.

    The cold war’s over and the individualized media explosion still upon us and the olympics are usually just a big bore: Sports you can see at other times in other formats spiced up with tepid nationalism and an occasional high profile drug scandal.

    Just why did the UK _want_ the olympics anyway? From what I understand no city in the world needs more tourists and mandated boondoggle construction projects less than London, were they trying to prove something after Manchester’s perpetual failures?

  • Michael: The UK “wanted” the Olympics because of the massive opportunity for the State to spend stadia-full of OPM and along the way have near-limitless occasions for junkets, conferences, presentations, meetings, offsites, giveaways and a chance to award grateful PLCs with juicy contracts.

  • Midwesterner

    I have to admit to an addiction bordering on obsession with the winter olympics. From watching Jean Claude Killy’s surgical dissection of the downhill (in ’68?) to Franz Klammer’s edge of annihilation (in ’76?), watching The Hockey Game™, Torville and Dean utterly entranced me while breaking all the rules, I’m hooked.

    It’s very Walter Mittyish. I’m in the start house, on the ice, soaring over the landing zone, drawing a bead in the biathilon, and in the front seat of the 4 man bob sled. (Yes, Michael, even pushing that rock like thing and swishing the brooms and doing whatever it is that they actually do in that sport.)

    I have tried repeatedly to develop an appreciation for the summer games. It just doesn’t work. For one thing, the summer games seem to be about politics, the winter games about sports. I tell my self that most of the people in the world are deprived of winter sports and this is how they entertain themselves, there must be something good in it. But it doesn’t work.

    I enjoy many or even most of the sports in the summer games. I just can’t seem to enjoy the venue. My condolences to you, London. I’m sure it will be a great success for politicians, if not by any other measure.

  • TimC: Of course. They went to Sydney on official junkets, had a wonderful time at taxpayers expense, and wanted one of these for themselves.

    I think it is vaguely embarassing for London to bid for the Olympics. Bidding for the Olympics is rather tacky – something grasping second rate or up and coming cities that want the world’s attention on them for a couple of weeks do. London is the greatest city in the world: why should it need such a thing?

  • Aren’t they building some huge freakin’ mosque near the venue…maybe you could hold some of the events there – if you ask nice.

    Nothing involving spandex of course.

  • pommygranate



    I am still in favour though. Especially now that i’m living in Sydney. I look forward to visiting in 2012.

  • Chris Duran

    I live in the East London and I cheered when we were awarded the Olympics. I still believe there will be some benefits as few things in life are ever really black and white, but I’m getting more and more worried.

    My main concern is that they are planning to dig up virtually the only green space we’ve got and turn it into a coach park. They promise to restore it after the games but there have already been so many broken promises.

    Apart from the cost which is clearly completely out of control, and the decimation of grass level sport to pay for it, there is the issue of the cycle track which is going to be less than a quarter the size of the one originally promised. We were also promised my borough (Waltham Forest) would be a host venue for the games, and they are still pretending it is, but it won’t be.